January 18, 2024

Preview of the AIMA Santa Monica Ebike

AIMA debuted their upcoming e-bike model at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Santa Monica is a sleek and refined city electric bike, equipped with quality components and powered by AIMA's new "Route 66" motor, which was custom built in a partnership with Bafang.

Howdy, friends! Welcome to a special "preview" edition of Ride Review. AIMA is bringing a new city electric bike to the US market, and they were kind enough to let me borrow their prototype for a quick review on the show floor. The new model - dubbed the Santa Monica - will be coming to US dealers in the summer of 2024 with a price tag of just $1,599, and I expect it to be quite popular. AIMA did a great job with the design, and their first two models (the Big Sur and the Big Sur Sport) set a great standard for the brand. I'm looking forward to doing a longer test ride and full review of the Santa Monica once it's officially available!

Haven't heard of the AIMA brand before? That's understandable, because they only entered the US market in 2023. However, they're growing surprisingly fast, with 220 dealers and counting. They have a lot of expertise in manufacturing electric two wheelers, recognized as one of the largest such companies in China with 12 factories in eight different cities. If you want to know more about them, check out this brand profile I created while at CES.

Okay, let's jump into the Santa Monica. We'll start off with style and appearance: this is an impressively sleek e-bike, with electronics integrated so cleanly that you would be forgiven for not realizing it's electric. The battery integration is especially impressive; it's mounted in the downtube but you have to bend down and look real close to see the seam around it. Don't worry, it's still easily removable for charging and storage purposes! The test model sports a dark not-quite-black frame with tasteful accents from the leather saddle and grips.

The electronics are what sets the Santa Monica apart from other similarly-specced city bikes. The drive system - comprised of motor, controller, and PAS sensor - is a custom setup that AIMA has built with Bafang. The Santa Monica is using the fifth generation of this drive system, and it's very well dialed in; the tuning on the torque sensor is especially well done! It feels even better than on the Big Sur and that's saying something. The motor represents the biggest change for this generation, though. It has 750 watts of power, which you wouldn't guess from how small it is. It's a new slim profile design that reduces size and weight without affecting power, so you can still easily reach the top speed of 28mph.

The other components on the Santa Monica are good quality as well. For human-powered pedaling there's an eight-speed drivetrain, with a Shimano Altus derailleur and an upgraded cassette with a 12-36 tooth range. It's the perfect complement to the electric drive system and provides a good gearing ratio on the top end to prevent ghost pedaling. The brakes are honestly almost overkill for this e-bike; Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with massive 203mm rotors front and rear. Suffice it to say you'll never have to worry about stopping power, and the bright lever-activated brake lights are a nice touch! There's turn signals too, and the headlight is impressively bright... though I wish it had side cutouts for better side visibility at night.

Let's talk comfort, fit, and sizing. The Santa Monica is quite comfortable thanks to the wide, plush saddle and the swept back handlebars; you get a nice upright seating position, and you can adjust the stem up to 180 degrees to get the perfect fit. AIMA makes the process even easier by offering multiple sizes: the Santa Monica comes in either a medium or a small frame so most riders should be able to get a perfect fit. The medium size was "close enough" for my lanky 6ft 3in frame; while I couldn't fully extend my legs while pedaling, I still felt very comfortable and ready to tackle an extended ride. Comfort is aided by the suspension fork, which is a decent quality SR Suntour with about 80mm of travel. That, plus the large volume of air in the 26x2.6 tires, provide a smooth ride on city streets or light trails.

The Santa Monica comes with sturdy plastic fenders, well mounted to prevent rattling and with excellent coverage. Unfortunately there's not a rear rack included, which I would love to see... but I get it, not everyone wants or needs one. There are mounting points for easily adding an aftermarket rack and this can be done cheaply at pretty much any bicycle shop.

Article by Tyson Roehrkasse
Photo of the author, Tyson Roehrkasse

Tyson Roehrkasse is a technical specialist who has worn just about every hat there is in the IT and software development fields. He began working with PEVs in 2018 as a developer for Electric Bike Review, and immediately became obsessed with learning about e-bike technology. He soon began creating his own reviews on the EBR platform and to date is the second largest contributor of review content there. After a five-year tenure with EBR Tyson moved on to work with other companies in the industry, building websites for other reviewing companies and e-commerce platforms for EV manufacturers. He also continued working as a freelance reviewer, eventually partnering with the Micromobility Industries to produce reviews and other content for their partner site, Ride Review.

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